From KATU News. Dec 7.
Dear bank… please take my townhome
NEWBERG, Ore. – You see stories of people fighting to save their homes from foreclosure but in this case it’s just the opposite – a local woman wants to give her house back to the bank, but they’re not taking it.
Lynn Gourley is currently living with her sister at an over 55 community in Newberg. She used to live in a townhome, also in Newberg, but she got a major cut in pay two years ago and then completely lost her job last year.
So she said she made the decision to let the bank take the townhome and she would then move on and try to rebuild her life.
“It was heart wrenching just to say ‘OK, I’m not going to pay you,’ ” she said.
The $35,000 she paid on the house was gone, along with her sense of pride and accomplishment.
“I worked all my life to have a good credit rating and I did – I had an excellent credit rating,” she said. “So then I had to make the decision just to throw that all away.”
Gourley said she asked for what’s called a deed in lieu of foreclosure in July 2010. She said she called, wrote letters and sent in documents and now, almost a year and a half later, nothing has happened.
Meanwhile the charges continue to add up, month after month. We’re talking about $1,300 a month for the mortgage payment, another $150 or more a month for late fees and another $215 a month for Homeowner Association dues.
“Let me move on with my life,” Gourley said. “I either want to give you the house back or foreclose on it. Either way, just do something.”
That may indeed happen. Late Wednesday we got an answer from Gourley’s lender, Bank of America, saying they will get a specialist on Lynn’s case to help her give back her home.
Now this is a complex situation but the bank said if Gourley wants a deed in lieu of foreclosure, she may have to try a loan modification first. When we told the bank that Gourley had already applied for one and didn’t get it, they said she may have to try a short sale.
From The Oregonian. Dec 8:
Starts: Portland-area foreclosure rate 2.52% in September, an increase over last year
The Portland area foreclosure rate declined for a second month in September to 2.52 percent, but remains three-tenths of a percentage point higher than a year ago.
The real estate data company CoreLogic also reported Thursday that the 90-day mortgage delinquency rate in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area has increased year-over-year, from 5.55 percent in September 2010 to 5.63 percent in September 2011.
The delinquency rate has also been in decline for two months, but it has stayed essentially flat — and steadily over 5 percent — since January 2010.
Despite a decline in new delinquencies, foreclosures are expected to continue and even increase into 2012 and beyond, according to mortgage industry and watch groups like the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Center for Responsible Lending.
Oregon as a whole has a foreclosure rate of 2.93 percent, an increase from the 2.31 percent rate in September 2010. The delinquency rate for the state is 5.69 percent.
Portland and Oregon rates are both faring better than the nation as a whole, which had a 3.48 percent foreclosure rate and a 7.17 percent delinquency rate in September. The national delinquency rate, however, showed a year-over year decline of 0.69 percentage points.
Mortgage rates this week dipped below 4 percent to 3.99 for a 30-day fixed-rate home loan.
Portland’s tight rental market gets the cover story treatment from Willamette Week.
Nike has leased 200,000 square feet of office space near its Beaverton-area headquarters in the past year, and it’s said to be looking for more.
Portland is reviewing its involvement with the Headwaters Apartments, a public housing project that serves residents making as much as $97,000 a year and serves only a few low-income residents.
From PugetSoundAnarchists.org. Dec 3:
How to Occupy a Vacant House, from Tides of Flame #11
The occupation of a vacant house in the Central District by a crew of autonomous squatters and anarchists is still going strong. Every day, the house comes more and more to resemble a home and active social center. [Update: The city has recently announced that it will be taking steps towards evicting the squat.] We are quite inspired [anyway]. And so, in the hopes that more and more people take it upon themselves to challenge the insanity of capitalism and the sanctity of surplus, we provide the following…
How to Occupy a Vacant Building!
1. Scout possible locations. Depending on the purpose of your occupation, you might want a low-visibility location or a high-visibility location, a large building or a small one. Do you what to make a splash or make a home? Do you want a place to live or do you want to establish a social center? These are important questions to answer before you begin your search. Your answers will give you a better idea of what sort of building you should be looking for.
In the current political climate, it is hard to predict the outcome and legal consequences of any occupation, but it’s safe to assume that a smaller residential property in disrepair owned by a bank or absentee landlord has greater long-term potential. A large commercial or residential building on a busy street is likely to be much more controversial and could be evicted quite quickly—but not necessarily. In reality, there are a number of factors that make each building occupation unique. The most important thing is to have a good crew of people and a solid plan which includes some basic ideas for neighborhood-outreach and possible future responses to eviction. You should know how many people you have who are willing to be arrested in defense of the occupation. This will have a big impact on the nature of your occupation and how you will respond to eviction.
2. Once you have found your building, you need to do some research to find out who owns it and why it’s empty. The history of a building is extremely important. The King County Department of Assessments website (http://info.kingcounty.gov/Assessor/eRealProperty/default.aspx) is a great place to start. You need the address or parcel number. Here you can find lots of information including the current owner (thought this is sometimes outdated) and the permit and taxroll history. Recent permits are a good sign that someone has been paying attention to the property—unpaid taxes likely show the opposite. The King County Parcel Viewer is a good tool to use if you’re unsure of the property’s address: http://www5.kingcounty.gov/parcelviewer/viewer/kingcounty/viewer.asp
For maps and blueprints, you’ll need to navigate the bureaucratic channels of the Seattle Department of Planning and Development Public Resource Center or the King County Department of Development & Environmental Services Records Center.
3. Talking to the neighbors is a fantastic way to find other kinds of information (like if anyone has been around the place recently or how long it’s been sitting vacant), but you might come across as sketchy if you’re not careful. It is probably best if you know something about the building’s history before you approach anyone living around it—this knowledge will give you some credibility. The neighbors might be cool and supportive or they might be cop-loving yuppie shitheads. Either way, there’s no need to worry the people who could be your greatest allies, so use your best judgment and approach neighbors cautiously and politely. Share only as much information as you think is safe and remember that neighbors might talk to each other.
4. At some point early on in this process, you need to find a way into the building. How you do that is up to you, of course, based on the skills and tools you have available and the amount of risk you are willing to take. Some important things to consider are: Is there a back or obscured entrance? Are there security cameras nearby? Does the building have a security system? If you’re not sure, it might be best to open (or “crack”) the building, leave or wait nearby, and come back later. Be creative—you don’t necessarily need to sneak around at night. An orange safety vest and a hard hat (or a suit, for that matter) can go a long way. But if you are entering the building at night, wear dark clothing that won’t snag and shoes with hardy soles, and carry a dependable flashlight (not too bright), some water (in case you can’t leave the building because people are lingering outside), your ID (in case you are arrested), and anything you actually need to use inside the building. Leave everything else at home or in the car. Lastly, you might want to have an emergency phone number memorized or written on your forearm so that you have someone to call if the cops catch you breaking the sacred law of private property and decide to stuff you in a cage.
5. Once you get in successfully, change the locks as soon as possible.
6. Next, secure the building. This can be done in a number of ways and the methods you choose to use will depend on your intentions for your occupation. Hard or soft? Sustainable or symbolic?
A hard occupation is a sealed occupation—no one in, no one out. It says, “We are staying until you drag us out.” In this case, barricades on the windows and doors are in order. These should be in place before the building is outed as an occupation, and people who are willing to be arrested should already be inside when the support crew shows up. This kind of spectacular action is likely to result in police action unless this would result in greater problems for the state in the form of riots, wildcat strikes, copycat occupations, or significant political ramifications. As things currently stand, there is mostly only passive support for occupation in Seattle, so participating in a hard occupation will probably land you in jail. The up side, depending on how you look at it, is that your action could make some serious waves.
A soft occupation, on the other hand, allows the flow of people into and out of the building, often through only one guarded and/or locked door. The remaining entrances and street-level windows are often (but not always) reinforced. This is the best choice if you want to actually begin creating something like a social center. You might lose it tomorrow or next week, but the relationships you build and the memory of the occupation’s potential will last much longer.
As a third option, you can also just take a vacant building in a humble, unprovocative way, move on in, do your thing, and see what happens.
7. If you’re planning a high-profile occupation, plan a squatting action. When the house at 23rd and Alder was occupied in the Central District, people did some work beforehand to make sure that a good group of people would be there to participate and to support the occupiers when the squat went public. Marchers were told beforehand that a building would be occupied at the end of the march but were not told specifically where it was. A supportive crowd can serve as a buffer between occupiers and the police and might decide to join the squatters on the inside. A flash mob could have a similar effect and will probably have the added benefit of less police presence, but the numbers are less predictable. Either way, it’s great to have relevant banners draped on the structure (you can even dramatically drop them in front of your supporters) and tools on hand to immediately begin work on improving the building’s exterior.
Something that worked particularly well in Chapel Hill, NC, in a recent building occupation was that the occupiers mapped the space and made public what they planned to do with it. It was much harder for the media to spin the occupation as the evil work of some deranged anarchists when the deranged anarchists were intending to devote some space in the building to a library and childcare center. That said, we should never hinge our plans on the mainstream media’s representations of our actions—they’ll try especially hard to discredit us when we are most effectively challenging the status quo.
8. Eviction. Very few of the recent #Occupy-related public squatting attempts have lasted more than a day—the house on 23rd and Alder seems to be an exception. This is probably due, in large part, to the relatively weak position of the Seattle Police Department after some cops pepper-sprayed an old woman, a priest, and a pregnant woman at an Occupy Seattle demonstration on November 15. But this respite from police violence probably won’t last long. The police will eventually find a good excuse to unleash their brutality on us freedom-loving rebels, and we can expect the media to once again provide their paltry justifications.
As such, thinking about eviction response is important but may be difficult to plan in advance. In that case, it is good to know what options you can select from when (and if) the time comes. So, what are they? Well, you might want to stay and fight, barricading yourselves inside, etc. That little “etc.” can mean a lot of things—so do your research, look at examples from elsewhere in the world, and prepare yourself accordingly. Another option is to leave and regroup. There are lots of other buildings out there… perhaps one just down the street. Regardless of the specifics, having a phone-tree or similar method of alerting your network of friends and supporters is a fabulous idea. Occupation evictions and squat defense have an extremely rich history of igniting revolt and inspiring greater acts of rebellion. So whatever you do, don’t go quietly!
Advisory Service for Squatters (UK)
Kansas City Squatter’s Handbook